Sunday, May 23, 2010

old, sweet Marina

You know who's a badass? Arthur Danto is a badass. He can say things like this in the New York Times:
Because of my role as critic and philosopher, and as a New Yorker associated with the arts, I am often asked for my opinion of what this new work, designed for this occasion, means.
because it is true. The piece in question is the Marina Abramović piece The Artist is Present, where she sits in a chair in the atrium of MoMA, across form a chair where you or I can sit and commune with the legend in public silence. I am pretty sure I would fall in love with Marina Abramović if I sat in that chair, thinking about when she stood nude in the doorway of a gallery with her partner making you choose against who and what you will brush to get in,

Marina Abramović & Ulay, "Imponderabilia" [1977]

or how they spent a year tied to each other by a 6-foot rope or when they sealed their mouths together and breathed up all their air until they passed out or when she took pills for the express purpose of inducing seizures all for the express purpose of expression. This was a good one.

Marina Abramović & Ulay, The Other: Rest Energy, 1980

Her immediate art, filled to overflowing with self/ego/me/you/us/them dynamics, is some of the finest that the naked, bleeding spectacle of performance art has produced. The Artist is Present is pretty tame by her standards, just sitting in a chair interacting-by-not with those who stood in line for the pleasure of her not company. And badass Arthur Danto, confined to a wheelchair had the chair removed so he could roll up and participate on his terms, as it were. It is a beautiful subversion that only a critical mind with clout can pull off.

Last night I went to an opening where the latest Sweet Tooth was distributed, in which I have a piece where I critique a performance art event and I was talking about it and the changing nature of performance art over the years. Simplifying, of course: in the 70's it was brutal and confrontational, about making you squirm in your skin while watching the violation of another's. Now it seems more about coming together, kinda Cumbaya stuff.

Anyway, it was a fun event, and I walked to it from my house thinking the whole time "Oh how I like walking to an art opening from my house" and considering putting it on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else all that stuff goes (I think my Google Chat status is wired up in it too) but was hesitant to pull my phone out. The walk toward where I catch the bus gets a touch dicey at night. So I got to the bus stop and no gallery. Not even no opening but the building wasn't even there. Where was it? I pass this fucking place every time! I considered - it might be an instinct now - pulling out my phone and looking up the address and then my hesitation and the coming-together-thoughts and how am I supposed to tell people about things I can't find right under my own nose all bubbled up to the surface.

Turns out the place is exactly one block away from my house, like I could have possibly thrown the beer I eventually retrieved from the ice chest on their little patio onto my own patio if I'd tried. I had it mixed up with an arted-up flower shop right next to the Domino's, which kinda fits the gallery a little. Getting there felt like its own performance art - walking a circuitous path, slightly out of context from familiar, freshly imbued with panic, only to get back to where you started. That's what performance art does, I think, wipes your glasses clean, like, really clean. It gets in the cracks, runs water over them, dries them with a clean towel, doing a much better job of it than you do with your hot breath and the hem of your shirt. You just smear whatever you've been looking through already around. Somehow I think when Arthur Danto wheeled up to old, sweet Marina, who was likely bored/in deep thought/needed to pee like a motherfucker, I suspect his (metaphorical) glasses were clean.

Portrait of Arthur Danto, left, taken while sitting with Marina Abramovic, right, from the article.

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